“Secret Falls”, my favorite image from 2014

Secret Falls

“Secret Falls”
Arca Swiss Rm3di, PhaseOne IQ180 back with Rodenstock 70mm HR lens, 1.0 sec at f/11, iso 35

My favorite image from last year, and indeed one of my favorite images I’ve ever done is this one from Metlako Falls in Oregon.  Unlike some of my past #1 choices, there really isn’t any special details or background about the image … I didn’t plan it in advance and try to time it, I didn’t travel 800 miles just to get this shot.  In fact the trip was focused on getting a different shot (which I didn’t get). But no trip is complete without exploring and trying multiple locations.  Other factors which perhaps should have made it not so special is the waterfall is well known, the hike is pretty straight forward on a well marked and maintained trail, and the single vantage point to see and shoot it is pretty limited so everyone gets basically the same shot. So the only difference between my image and many others (and I’ve seen many really nice images from this location) are the circumstances I found when there and the fact that it’s my image.

Typical of this area of Oregon it was a little damp and little patches of fog constantly made their way through the canyon.  After setting up for the shot I found things were changing rather quickly and this small patch of fog suddenly appeared in the perfect location, with a little hint of sunlight breaking through to slightly backlight it.  It’s not often I nail a shot within a few minutes of setting up the camera. Two minutes later it was gone, and suddenly it was raining … well, “misting” may be a better word (is that a word?).

As to why this is one of my all time favorites, I fall back on what I enjoy personally, and what I try to capture.  I like the solitude and beauty of the world around us, the majesty of a scene that can both comfort and overwhelm, the grandeur of nature and God’s handiwork.  I love the serenity and calmness of cool colors, and the sound and sight of moving water.  While I also love scenes of the southwest with amazing colors, interesting rock formations, deep canyons and wide open spaces, scenes like this one just seem to spark something extra as I experience it. When I view this image (especially when printed large so I can view all the amazing texture and detail in the scene) I feel all the same feelings I did when standing there … I really can relive the moment. That’s one of my goals when capturing any scene, to try and allow the viewer to not only see what I saw, but to feel how I felt when standing there.  This image seems to accomplish that more than any other image I took last year.

As I reflect on last year I again realize I don’t get to travel and shoot as much as I would like.  I ask myself why I don’t just head up the canyon all the time and I’ve never really understood why.  There’s many nice locations within a short drive of my home.  But after discussing this with some others including the curator who is helping me with my bio, it seems my goal when I go out on a photographic excursion is a little different.   What I seem to be doing each time I go is create a monumental (her word) piece … it’s almost like every photographic journey I’m trying to create a seminal work.(OK, that’s a little over the top, but I’ll get back to that shortly).  So  I usually have a pretty solid plan on what I’m trying to get before the trip, and I don’t shoot that many images in the process. As I review my work, I don’t see dozens of nice images each year, in fact I struggle to even find ten. When I look back at my previous years  top 10’s, I find only a few from each year really satisfy me.

This same trait seems to have affected even the way I work and the technical aspects of my work. Art isn’t on the internet, just pictures of things that might be art. I offer these images to share with friends and followers but the true goal of my work isn’t in just sharing nice images but offering high quality pieces that can be enjoyed on a personal level.  Thus I’ve found myself over the years working harder to master technical skills in all aspects, including capturing, perfecting, printing, and even framing and presenting the work.

None of this was intentional… I don’t know how or why it happened, and until a few days ago I didn’t even realize any of this. But that seems to be what I’ve become.  Over the past few days I’ve struggled with this realization, wondering if I need move a different direction.  Maybe I should spend more time or work harder shooting more variety.  The thought of creating a “seminal” piece is a little over the top … it’s not like I’m da Vinci or Raphael or Michelangelo … or even Ansel Adams. I have no illusions of grandeur here, but to be honest I sort of like that I’ve evolved to a style and purpose where my goal and objective is pretty clear, intentional or not.  And I do enjoy the deliberate nature of how I work.

 Guess I’ll go with it for a while and see where it takes me …

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